Arlene Foster says there may be ‘slight differences’ to easing lockdown measures across UK

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster has said there may be slight differences to how the lockdown measures are eased across the UK, but warned Northern Ireland’s would be nuanced.

It comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to address the nation on Sunday, outlining how lockdown measures, introduced on March 23, will be eased.

Mrs Foster said the region’s reproductive rate (R0) – the number of people an infected person infects – is currently at 0.8.

She said that is higher than some areas in England and it needs to be driven down before the region can move to relax measures.

Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, she said: “We will be looking at some nuanced changes throughout that time and we will await to hear what the Prime Minister has to say today.

“But I think in terms of the Northern Ireland public, it is important that we continue to protect them and make sure this virus does not start transmitting again in the community in a way that would cause damage to the community.”

Mrs Foster said the lockdown could be eased in different regions as Northern Ireland’s rate of transmission is higher than other regions in the UK.

“Sage and indeed our own chief medical officer do indeed recognise that there are different rates of transmission across the United Kingdom.

“There are differences across the UK, regional differences, I think the Prime Minister recognises those regional differences and as a result, you may see slight differences across the UK.”

Asked if it is a good idea that the lockdown could be re-applied to different regions if required, she said it is important that Northern Ireland moves in cohesion with the rest of the UK.

“It is important that we do what is right in our region of the United Kingdom moving forward. That is why we are coming with our road plan early next week. It will set out how we can take graduated steps back to what will be a different normality.”

On Saturday, another four Covid-19 deaths were reported in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said. It brings the total fatalities to 430.

A further 56 positive cases were also diagnosed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,078.